Monday, October 8, 2012

Amanuensis Monday--Elsie Crocker’s Manuscript, Part 4: Raft River, Idaho

This time around, Elsie tells about when her parents, Walter and Flora Underwood, left the home of their cousins, the Hawkes family. They proceeded to Raft River, stopping for a while in American Falls.

Dad was getting itchy feet again, wanting to make a home for his family, and be indepent. He felt they shouldn’t over stay their welcome. Little Walter couldn’t manage the long outside stairs, to play in the yard. Someone had to be with him all the time. Mother did not want to keep him couped up in th apartment all day, he needed the sun shine.

So when harvests were over and money in his pocket they decided to leave. He felt more secure He had learned a lot. He could find some kind of job. The time was right, the rains hadn’t started yet. The roads would be good and the streams low.

Dad was looking for a place with lots of water and no alikali. This alikali burned his skin and eyes awful He also thought about the winter coming on. Nothing much to do but sit around half the time, in a very small apartment. There must be some thing better.

Mother never told him she might be having a baby. So they loaded up their worldly goods and saying their goodbyes to these care loving people was very hard to do. Mother remembered the first time she said goodbye.

They were on their way. The trip was rough and barren. Lots of sagebrush and plenty of alikali dust. Alikali is a white salt substance that is very drying to the skin. It washes to the top of the soil and shows white, when dry the wind blows it flies in the air. Sometimes the rain washes it up and when it dries it looks like a small lake, at a distance. You’ve probably have seen some, if you have traveled in barren, sage brush country.

They traveled until they came to American Falls, Idaho. They stayed here Dad got some odd jobs. Sure enough Mother was going to have her second child. My brother William George was born on the 28th. of May 1905. They stayed here until Mother and Bill were able to travel.

Dad heard there were men needed, as a boom was on in Raft River, Idaho. It was then a big cattle town. So off then they started for Raft River, with two very small boys and every thing they owned. They made their way to Raft River Idaho. Some of the bridges were washed out. Dad would drive right thru the streams. Sometimes the water came up into the wagon bed. Mother would hold little Bill and little Walter sat on the seat between, Dad and Mother. The seat was much higher then the wagon bed floor.

They arrived in Raft River and got a job there. They homesteaded there. Cleared the ground and built a small house. We had a small vegetable garden and of course a flower bed. We got our water in a cistern. You pulled the water up in a bucket. It was hard water.

Here Dad became a photographer. He not only took the pictures but developed them and printed them. He even did tintype pictures.

Dad had a very good camera, for the time then. Later he took pictures of the school children where we went to school. They always turned out real good. Of course they were black and white.

Perhaps this is one of the pictures that Walter Underwood took of his children’s class. Elsie is the girl seated to the far right. Her brothers are also in this picture. I believe that the boy seated in the front row nearest the teacher is one of them, but I am not presently sure which is the other.

The camera stood up on a frame, three legs like a tripod but much higher. He could stand up and take the pictures. He had a black cape, he over his neck and around his shoulds. To keep the light off his lens and flim. He would look thru the lens and focos on what he was taking. He would take his pictures with a blub on a long cord. The cord was fastened to the camera. He would squeeze the blub to take the picture.

Later when I was going to school, he’d take some pictures, he’d get all riged up and ready to shoot, he’d tell us “see the birdie”. Of course we knew there wasn’t any bird, we’d laugh or smile. That’s just what he wanted us to do. His camera was one of those according type, the kind you see in antique shops or thrift shops.

I was born here in Raft River, Mother’s first girl 4 ½ lbs. I arrived six o’clock in the morning. Mom said I was ready for company one hour after I arrived. She had a midwife for me. No doctor just a nurse that could deliver babies.

Mother told me when I was jus six weeks old I pulled up, by the legs of the chair. Mom told me could remember this day as she had a friend over that had a baby boy the same age as me. She said they were wondering who would be the first to pull up. She told me to her amazement I did, right then.

I pulled up eary but maybe I shouldn’t have. I knocked out my first baby tooth. Mother was playing peek a boo with me. I looked doun in a hurry, trying to hide my face, I came doun on the seat of the chair. Bingo! Mother took me bleeding to my dad about one half mile away. He put it back in place. Mom said it was growing real good. Then I knocked it out with a hammer. I was teased a lot. without my front tooth. Everyone called me Grandma. They didn’t have the song “All I Want For Christmas is My My Front Tooth.” It was along time before I got my front tooth.

We had chickens on this land, the coyotes tried to steal our chickens. They were brave They would come right in the yard, she would shake the tea towel at them They would run away. Sometimes, she said they would come back with several more.

Dad was on the police force. He would be gone several days at a time. He and another man would go on horse back. They were suppose to bring back a thief or a outlaw.

My mother didn’t like this one bit. She was afriad to be left a lone over night. She had three small children. The town, at night was pretty rough. She called this town “a God forsaken country. Thank goodness Dad didn’t have to go very often.

After all she was a city girl, this must have been rough on her.

On day Dad was gone, Mom was, chopping some sagebrush. She left me in a clothes basket, thinking I would be O.K., I was only nine months old. She didn’t go very far but when she come back I was gone. She paniced thinking the coyotes had gotten me and dragged me away. I surprised her, I had gotten out of the basket and had waled a short way. She was happy to find and to know I could walk. She said after that she kept an eye on me.

Mom made our bread, ever since her cousin showed her how. She did a good job to.

It just happened after one of those bakings. She awoke one morning, to her surprise she found some odd looking people on her front porch. What to do, she was scared. Dad was still in bed, she ran in and woke him He sid “Just give them a loaf of bread”. She went back and did as she was told. The Indians were from the “Black Foot Tribe” They bowed and smiled at her.

Mother said she had studyed the Indians in school but had never seen one. Never expecting to be so close to them and handing, her own baked bread to them. The folks would wonder about that. The Indians came back a few times after that, she missed them when they quite coming.

My version of Raft River (not to many years ago)

Raft River now is a spot on the map. A service station, a very small store and a lot of rattle snakes.

We drove thru one day and stopped at Rupert Idaho, we asked about Raft River, the waitress smiled and told us, There’s nobody there anymore. There are a lot of rattle snake and they aren’t very big. It hot and dry when we went thru and sagebrush every where. This was a big cattle country at the time my folks were there.

I did how ever wonder, where my folk’s place had been. Where in this barren, desolate place, I was born.

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